Confession time: I’ve been sleeping on Paul Cauthen and man oh man do I have regrets…
I knew the name, had seen him in the “Fans Also Like” section on Spotify, but I had never listened to any of his music for some reason.
Then, “Cocaine Country Music” came on after listening to some Joshua Ray Walker stuff and holy shit my world has changed.
The funk, the bass, the voice, the words, the walking beat, I mean COME ON with it…
The song is from his 2019 album, Room 41, named for the hotel room at the Belmont, in Dallas, Texas, where he stayed for almost 2 years after the release of his first album.
He struggled mightily with drugs and alcohol during this time, ending up in the hospital on more than a few occasions, but kept writing the entire time. The result of this manic timeframe was a piece of absolute gold.
This album sounds nothing like anything I’ve heard before. It’s sonically as unique as it is lyrically; the songs vary greatly, yet stay true to theme. This album is more of an experience than a listen.
My favorite song on it is “Big Velvet,” which is also his phenomenal nickname. Wish I knew that when I made this list…
The song weaves through ideas and thoughts at a frantic pace, jumping from women to Jesus, from drugs to identity.
With the women
I can’t walk in a room that I ain’t been in
If we hadn’t hooked up, we might be friends
We’ll do the twist ’til the mornin’ comes
Run my veins ’til I go numb
Threw it all out before I held it
Now you gonna meet the real Big Velvet”
Another song on the album I really love is “Freak,” which talks about the type of people he met in prison.
He never denies their wrongdoings, but certainly makes you think twice about how you think about the majority of people behind bars.
“I wrote that song about my experience in the Smith County Jail. I met a lot of crazy characters there, but everybody in this world deserves a chance. At the end of the day, we’re all freaks, and we all just want to love and be loved.”
I went back and started listening to some of his other stuff as well and “Everybody Walkin’ This Land” really caught my ear.
It’s both a prayer and call out of evil people in the world. While he doesn’t speak highly of the evil, he does say a prayer for them… something I think we can all get behind.
When listening to a whole bunch of his music, a thought came to mind:
Paul Cauthen is like a futuristic Johnny Cash.
Think about it.
Their vocal registers are very close and they both had substance issues. They enjoy the traditional, yet aren’t afraid to stretch boundaries to make the music they want. They’re not afraid to tackle real issues in their music or be frank about their vices of choice. They both sing about Jesus and drugs in a paradoxical, yet understandable way.
If you take Johnny Cash, age him in the style and production availability of today, send him to Mars in a time machine and then back down to planet Earth in 2021, I believe you would have something very similar to Paul Cauthen.
Yes, this is going to anger some traditionalists, but understand I’m not saying Paul is trying to knock-off Johnny or that Johnny is somehow put down by this. I’m just comparing two styles and accounting for the time difference.
So Paul, while I don’t want you to be manic depressive again, and I really hope you have found some peace… I also hope you can continue to tap into whatever was inside of you to make music like this.
Room 41 is one of those perception altering albums that have opened my mind to what music can be.
Stay good and keep rocking.